Desserts · Snacks · Vegan

Spiced Pecan Rum Balls (Vegan & Naturally Sweetened)

I’m starting a new dietary trend. It’s kind of like the Paleo, or “Caveman” diet.


Except it’s called the “Sailor” diet. Like the Caveman diet, you can eat meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and (according to some) high-quality, full-fat dairy products. The difference on the Sailor diet is you can also eat carbs. Baked goods in moderation, if you’d like. And a shot of rum, preferably Sailor Jerry, is encouraged every once in a while.

I guess I’ve been on the Sailor diet for four years now. It’s a very sustainable way of living and eating, if I do so say.

Rum balls, a concoction of Nilla wafers, powdered sugar, nuts, sometimes cocoa, rum, and whatever else, are a holiday cookie tray standby. However I can’t say I’ve ever had one. The fluorescent box of processed cookies is off-putting to me, and I’m gonna be presumptuous and say if there’s an organic, all-natural alternative being marketed at the health food store, it probably tastes like cardboard.

But I do like nuts, and rum, and plenty of things that fall into the category of “whatever else.”


I came up with these Spiced Pecan Rum Balls for my mom. Today is her birthday! (She saw her shadow… six more weeks of winter, ugh). Mom lives 3,000 miles away, but I can’t let anyone’s birthday go by without a proper celebratory treat. I’ve gotten pretty inventive in the past with making things that will keep on a three day journey through the mail. With my mom, not only do I have to consider shipping, but her pickiness as well. She is pretty opinionated and vocal about what she likes and dislikes, though I can’t help but notice that doesn’t stop her from inhaling whatever food item gets put in front of her.

“I don’t even like french fries.” *Eats all french fries off my plate, four at a time* “I thought you just said you didn’t like french fries.” “I usually don’t. Those ones were good.”

Man, I love my crazy Mom. And because of that, I always try and make her things she can admit to loving. Two of her loves are pecans and rum. Give that lady a bowl of nuts and a mojito (mo-jee-toe!) and you’ve got a friend.


Last weekend I was skimming a cookbook of candy recipes, heading for a bark recipe I’d originally planned to make for her. Flipping through, I saw a page for “Cocoa Rum Balls,” and thinking about the bottle of Sailor Jerry I had taking up real estate in my freezer, inspiration struck.

Graham crackers instead of those Nilla things, spices instead of cocoa, and coconut palm sugar and honey instead of confectioner’s sugar, because why not avoid refined sugar if possible? I’m not adverse to eating sugar every now and then, honestly I just think minimally processed sweeteners taste better. Sugar has little to no flavor. For these balls, the nuttiness from the coconut palm sugar is perfect with the spice and toasty pecans. Honey helps hold the balls together. If you’d like yours to be fully vegan, brown rice syrup is a fine substitute. If you’re concerned about gluten, I like this brand of gluten-free graham crackers.

While these balls are no superfood-fruit-and-nut bites of energy, dare I say they’re a little bit healthy? As far as sweet treats containing 2 shots of 92-proof booze go? Definitely. I would know, being the founder of the Sailor Diet and all.

Don’t wait until next year’s holidays roll around to try this recipe. These balls are so quick and easy, there’s no excuse not to make a batch for your next gathering.


Happy birthday, Mom! If you eat 18 and I eat 18, we’ll each have taken a full shot of rum. Cheers to that!

Spiced Pecan Rum Balls
Yields 3 dozen balls

The classic rum ball made healthier with natural sweeteners, toasted pecans, and warm spices. Consume responsibly!


  • 12 full sheets (180g) graham crackers
  • 1/3 cup (60g) coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups (216g) pecan halves, divided*
  • 2 Tbs. (42g) honey*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) spiced rum


In a food processor or high powered blender, combine the graham crackers, coconut palm sugar, spices, and salt. Process until you have fine crumbs.

Add 1 1/3 cups (145g) of the pecans, and pulse a few times until the nuts are finely chopped. You don’t want them too big or the balls won’t hold together, or too small because the texture will be off. As a guide, bigger than sesame seeds, but smaller than peas.

Drizzle the honey and vanilla over the mixture and pulse 2-4 more times to distribute. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Using a rubber spatula to mix, slowly pour in the rum, stirring until everything comes together to form a stiff dough. You may need a little more or a little less rum, so pour slowly and use your best judgement.

Using slightly dampened hands, form thirty-six 1/2-ounce balls, using about a tablespoon of dough for each. Set on a large plate or baking sheet.

Place the remaining 2/3 cup of pecans in the food processor or blender. No need to wipe it, just make sure there as little to none of the graham cracker mixture left behind. Pulse the nuts into large crumbs, then transfer them to a plate or a large bowl.

Gently roll each ball in the pecan crumbs, pressing lightly so they stick but not so hard that the balls lose their shape. Once all have been rolled, put them back on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for an hour or two before serving. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

*If using gluten free graham crackers, the sheets are cut smaller so you may need more than 12, however the weight is the same.

*Raw pecans are good, toasted pecans are even better. To toast, arrange on a sheet pan and bake at 300º F for 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly before using.

*2 Tbs. (36g) brown rice syrup, instead of honey for vegan.



3 thoughts on “Spiced Pecan Rum Balls (Vegan & Naturally Sweetened)

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